Is it smart to allow other teams to dictate match-ups or is it best to be flexible? That seems to be the question behind much of the Raptors’ starting lineup decision making as of late. Before tonight’s game against Portland, coach Nick Nurse confirmed that Marc Gasol would start, essentially so he could combat the load that is Jusuf Nurkic. On paper, this makes sense — but psychologically? That’s a whole other existential crisis.
Let’s quickly address the paper: the Blazers are indeed one of the best rebounding teams in the league, Gasol is indeed one of the bigger players in the league, ergo it makes sense to use your biggest man to slow one of the bigger and/or more physical teams. (Nurse was asked if he’s worried about a smaller Serge Ibaka-fronted bench lineup, but said that with Kawhi Leonard active — and paired with OG Anunoby — it’s not as much of a concern; I believe him.) Again, on paper, this is sound decision making.
Existentially though our guy Daniel Hackett would say it is better to just play your best players together for the most amount of minutes — and make your opponents adjust to you. The Raptors, despite being in, let’s say, the softer conference, do have the better record and the better defensive rating than Portland. (The Blazers are modestly better offensively by 0.02 points per 100 possessions.)
There’s some thinking here that says it makes sense to not only start Gasol (as a player, even at 34, who is better than Ibaka), but to play him the bulk of the minutes. Do the Raptors do it tonight against Portland because they have to? Or do they do it all the time because they should? Or is their Ibaka-as-a-starter identity so firmly established by now that they should just stick with it? These are things to all keep in mind.
Then check out the full preview from earlier today, along with the (completely unchanged!) game details below.
Now, let’s watch.
Where to Watch:
Sportsnet One at 8pm EST
Toronto - Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam, Serge Ibaka
Portland - Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic
Toronto - Fred VanVleet (out - thumb)
Portland - Evan Turner (out - knee), Enes Kanter (out - travel issues)
Enes Kanter – OUT (Dictatorship) ♂️— Enes Kanter (@Enes_Kanter) March 2, 2019